Framed 14.10.2010
Framed 14.10.2010

THE enduring mystery and fatal attraction of Tibbie Tamson is 220 years old this year.

Her grave, marked by a massive boulder, fencing and plaques, lies in the beautiful countryside embraced by the Philiphaugh Estate and below the majestic Three Brethren peak near 

This atmospheric photograph was taken some time after the 200th anniversary of the woman’s death and strange burial, in 1990.

Tibbie Tamson lived in 18th century Selkirk. The cause of her death in 1790 still arouses speculation and debate.

Was she executed as a witch? Did she commit suicide? Was she a plague victim ? Or was she murdered?

Both execution and suicide would explain why she is buried outside burgh boundaries and in unconsecrated ground. Around the time of Tibbie’s death, court records show that a certain Megan Lawson was strangled and burned in Selkirk as a suspected witch. Has Tibbie been confused with Megan ?

Some experts prefer the suicide theory. Tibbie had been convicted of stealing yarn. She is said to have been something of a simpleton and likely to have been tormented and teased. Did this lead her back to her lonely home and the end of a rope?

Most dismiss the plague as unlikely – surely, they say, more would have died and been buried away from the town to avoid its spread.

As to murder, disguised as suicide, who knows. There 
would have been no major investigation, and the owner of the yarn may have carried a grievance.

A twist was added when a servant of the Duke of Buccleuch, one Michael Stewart, claimed he had dug up and re-buried 
Tibbie with Christian ceremony. She had not been burned, he maintained.

At Selkirk Common Riding, the Royal Burgh Standard Bearer and his cavalcade of riders take a break at Tibbie Tamson’s resting place as they check the burgh boundaries.

But earlier on that June Friday – before the sun has risen – a posy of flowers mysteriously appears on this lonely grave. BB